It is widely reported that bee populations are in trouble. These beautiful humble little creatures are tormented by pesticides, drought, habitat destruction, nutrition deficit, air pollution, global warming and more. Given that we’ll struggle to produce food without these valuable pollinators it’s important to make sure that our gardens have plenty of bee-friendly plants that support and nourish bees.
Worker bees live for about six weeks and need food all year round. A hive will typically produce fewer worker bees in the winter, however, they will remain active during this time and replace numbers throughout the summer when they are most active. So having plants that flower in different seasons are vital for the survival of these fascinating insects.
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Five important things we can do at home to help bee numbers are:
- Support campaigns to ban the seven most dangerous pesticides, and don’t use any pesticides in the garden, especially not on flowering plants. Some of the pesticides on the list linked above are already banned in Europe, but helping to create awareness across the globe is still an important step. We’ve stopped using pesticides a few years back, even though they still get attacked we’ve seen an increase in ladybugs and other insects that prevent disease in the garden, which seem to have brought the pests under control so that they no longer cause notable damage to the plant itself. If you resist the urge to interfere, nature knows how to look after itself.
- Protect pollinator health by preserving wild habitat and adding bee friendly plants to your garden
- Support ecological, regenerative, organic agriculture. Regenerative and ecological farming resists insect damage by avoiding large monocrops (growing the same crop every year on the same piece of land), preserving ecosystem diversity, reducing pesticide use and promoting soil health
- Avoid plants with double or multi petalled flowers
- Provide nest sites for wild bees
The Best Place to Buy Bee Friendly Plants
Before you rush off to the nearest garden centre to stock up on bee friendly plants, be mindful that many of the major garden centres across the world use pesticides on their plants which can be counter-productive in your efforts to save bees. These pesticides can last up to a year in colder climates, contaminating your garden and affecting pollinators.
Friends of the Eart has been running a campaign in the US to help stop the use of pesticides within garden centres over the last few years with great success, but there are still some that do use pesticides. You can read about the retailers who have signed up here. For those in the UK, the RHS has an updated list of Organic Nurseries on their site.
Alternatively growing from seeds could be the safest option if you are unsure as plants are often imported from abroad where regulations vary.
Bee Friendly Plants for Every Season
You can find bee-friendly seed packs online that takes the guesswork and pesticides out of the process. We’d recommend buying local seed packs specific to your country as they will have the best chance for good growth. Below are a few options from around the world for inspiration.
Flowering in Spring (March-May)
Giant Allium is a beautiful large lollipop bulb flower that requires full sun. It’s suitable for hardiness zones: 4-9.
Daffodils are an easy to grow spring-flowering bulb that requires full sun or partial shade. They require little water and is suitable for hardiness zones: 2-10.
Heather enjoys part shade and is easy to grow but requires well-drained soil. The flowers will usually overwinter and are suitable for hardiness zones: 4-9.
The Siberian Wallflower is easy to grow in partial shade and most soil types. It’s suitable for hardiness zones: 3-10.
Hawthorn is a beautiful spring flowering tree native to the UK. They’re also called Mayflower as they flower in May.
Forget-me-not flowers from May onwards and grows well in full sun or part shade. They grow to about 6-12″ high and is suitable for hardiness zones 2-9.
Primrose makes large flowers and is very easy to grow. They like full sun and grows well in hardiness zones 3-10.
Rhododendron has lovely rose-pink flowers and likes sun or part shade. They grow between 4-6″ and is suitable for hardiness zones 5-9.
Campanula flowers from late spring to early summer. They enjoy full sun and thrive in hardiness zones 3-6.
Flowering in Summer (June-August)
Lavender is a fragrant flower often used in perfumes and body care products. The flowers work well as a fragrant gin garnish as well!
Yarrow is a medicinal herb also used in herbal teas. They are suitable for hardiness zones 3-8.
Hyssop is a beautiful perennial medicinal herb. It can be used in tea and grows in hardiness zones 4-9.
Potentilla’s will be happy in most soil types, either in sun or part shade. They will grow in hardiness zones 4-8.
Geranium is a stunning wildflower from the UK that work really well in herbaceous borders.
Rosemary is a fragrant herb that flowers in summer. They’ll grow to 24-36″ high and is suitable for hardiness zones 7-10.
Comfrey is a wonderfully fragrant medicinal herb often used for joint aches and pains.
Delphinium delivers a beautiful display of flowers right through the summer. They grow around 18-24″ high and is suitable for hardiness zones 3-8.
Foxglove grows well in sun and part shade and will attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. These beauties are suitable for hardiness zones 3-9.
Thyme is an evergreen perennial herb used for seasoning. Plant in USDA hardiness zones 4-8.
Hollyhock comes in a variety of colours, flowering from Summer to Autumn. Grow them in hardiness zones 4-9.
Snapdragon likes full sun, sandy soil and moderate watering. They are suitable for hardiness zones 3-10.
Flowering in Fall (September-November)
Asters are colourful daisy-like flowers that bloom during fall. They are suitable for hardiness zones 3-8.
Meadow Saffron or Autumn Crocus is a pink/purple flower native to Europe. They will grow in hardiness zones 5-10.
Dahlias flower from mid-summer through to fall and come in an array of interesting colours. You can grow them in hardiness zones 8-11.
Goldenrod is a perennial and critical food source for pollinators. They are easy to grow and suitable for hardiness zones 4-9.
Flowering in Winter (December-February)
Winter Honeysuckle likes sun or part shade. It’s a relatively hardy plant that likes moist but well-drained soil.
Snowdrops are fragrant and delicate-looking flowers. They enjoy a sunny location and well-drained soil.
Winter flowering Laurustinus can be planted in well-drained soil with part shade or full sun. Grow in hardiness zones 8-10.